Profit trumps potentialposted Tue, 9 Oct 2012
We recently learned about an existing drug called Metformin that shows tremendous promise for treating pancreatic and other forms of cancer. But big pharmaceutical companies aren't interested in exploring its potential.
The drug has been around since the late 1950’s and is widely prescribed for people with type 2 diabetes to help lower blood sugar. Studies show that diabetics taking Metformin develop cancer at a rate that is 60 percent less than diabetics on other medications. Additional research demonstrates that the drug prevents tumors in mice.
Despite showing such obvious potential, research on Metformin as a cancer treatment has been slow. Governments and private foundations have been footing the bill for additional studies. Since the drug is long off patent, it is cheap. Metformin costs 5 cents a day, which means it doesn’t have blockbuster profit potential. Hence, big pharmaceutical companies simply aren’t interested.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which lobbies tirelessly for big pharma’s interests, is supposedly “devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.” PhRMA’s members put an estimated $49.5 billion into research and development in 2011 alone. Yet, here we have an existing drug that is safe, cheap, and could cure cancer—but they won’t touch it. Talk about skewed priorities.